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October 29, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-29

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*'The Michigan Daily
We got
ProfiSC author .
writes about the
dark side of life
by Kevin Stein

Tuesday, October 29, 1991

Page 5

Mantegna gets Mametized and
meets up with the nature of evil

Frederick Busch offers.a clear pic-
Lure of the' human condition,
without tempering the image with
moments of misplaced joy or senti-
mentality. In Closing Arguments,
the latest in 15 works of fiction,
Busch disturbs readers with child
abuse, sadomasochism, torture and
everyday lies..
One of the most unnerving topics
in Arguments is child abuse, which
runs throughout the book. In the
' chapter entitled "Dead Man's
Shoes," "...some guy in manmade,
fibers says to the child, 'This here's
Dr. Jack's sourmash, son. You drink
it-like a man, hear? Drink it down.'
Gives the kid a vase or something,
ten goddamned ounces of sourmash.
Boy goes into a coma. Surprise! All
he does then, is die."
Although his writing is filled
r with powerful social issues, Busch
is not trying to present 'solutions.
"I don't know if I have anything as
smart to say as anyone else," he ad-.
mits. "I think I have responses to
social and moral questions and prob-
lcms... Those responses feed into my
work. I have a political awareness in
general, but I think those political
matters are the weather in which my
characters live."
One of Busch's strong points is
believable characters in somewhat
unorthodox situations. When asked
if the characters are based on reality
or on creations from his imagina-
tion, he answers, "I fear that most
of them are from my head. There are
those that would say all of my most
attractive female characters are
based on Judy Busch. I'm like
Frankenstein: I need that person's
head, this person's ear, that person's
sexual appetite."
Busch was not always a novelist
and short story writer. "I started
but as a very, very bad poet and
moved on to writing stories," he
says. But if Busch had trepidations
about his poetry, this discomfort
doesn't figure into his prose.
Arguments- is filled with endugh'
graphic description to make pub-
lishers palpitate.
Mark Brennan, a Vietnam vet and

dir. David Mamet
by Brent Edwards
Playwright/director/writer David
Mamet is fascinated with motiva-
tions. Whether in his plays, like the
quick-witted Speed the Plow, or his
movies, like the plot-twisting
House of Games, the motivations of
the characters and not the story be-
come the center of interest in what
is usually a struggle of manipula-
tion and betrayal. Mamet's latest
offering, Homicide, is no different.
Actor Joe Mantegna is Mamet's
workhorse, just as DeNiro is
Scorcese's, and in this film
Mantegna plays Detective Gold, a
well-decorated head negotiator in
the homicide department. The film
starts out with Gold involved in
tracking down the standard cop-
killer bad guy, but-he is soon stuck
investigating a seemingly uninter-
esting shooting of an Jewish elderly
store-owner. Gold is transferred to
this case bedause he too is Jewish,
but he considers himself an outsider
since he's never accepted his reli-

The progress of the two cases are
slowly revealed throughout the
film, but in an indirect manner. The
killer of the store-owner is never
really tracked down, and the major-
ity of the cop-killer investigation is
not presented on-screen. What fol-
The motivations of the
characters and not
the story become the
center of interest in
what is usually a
struggle of manipula-
tion and betrayal
lows is Gold's self-examination and
an attempt to define his identity.
Mantegna's performance is pow-
erfully understated as he investi-
gates a possible anti-Semitic act and
becomes engrossed in the culture he
has ignored. His attitude toward his
religion transforms from contempt
to embarrassment to desperation
and, finally, to betrayal. His story is
also a study of loyalty: to his job as

an uncorrupt public servant; to -his'
partners, with whom he risks his
life; to his Jewish people, whom he
has ignored; and finally, to human-
ity. Mantegna presents a confident
man whose foundation is slowly
chipped away until he has nothing
left to stand on.
Evil is a secondary focus of
Homicide, and in Mamet's world,
evil and innocence embody the same
space: Neo-Nazi paraphernalia lit-
ters the back of a toy/hobby store, a
mass-murderer politely apologizes
to Gold and offers to return a favor,
the cop-killer becomes distraught at
the thought of his mother's be-
trayal. Even the killer of the store-
owner, whose identity is innocu-
ously revealed at the end, is the
most basic combination of evil and
David Mamet, like Gus van. Sant
and the Coen brothers, has once
again defied genre rules to create a
film much more meaningful and
memorable than the standard
Hollywood fare, which means
Showcase will run the movie for
about a week, so catch it while you

Author Frederick Busch isn't afraid to tackle sensitive issues in his
work. His latest novel, Closing Arguments, deals with child abuse.

small town lawyer, becomes in-
volved with. one of his clients,.and
Busch does not hesitate to write
about the ensuirig relationship with
unsettling candor: "She rolled over
me, onto me... I swatted her ribs, the
side of her head, but she rode me
with her thighs and knees... I struck
her hard, struck her again."
In fact, Busch did not think any-
one would want to publish the
work, and if someone did publish
the work, he didn't think anyone
would want to read it. The novel is
not only disturbing to read, but, as
Busch says, it was also problematic
to write. "I wrote i.t rather quickly
because the experience of writing it
was rather painful," he explains.
"Ii I .stopped writing it, I would
find it difficult to go back to it."
This is Busch's third reading in
Ann Arbor, and .c is happy to be
back. "I have always enjoycd read-
ings," he says. "I am afraid there is a
bit of the actor in all writers.

(Readings) are risky, but I like risk.
I can think of no audience that I like
to read to as much as the one in Ann
If you are hoping to hear new
material, you may. be in - luck. "I
think what I would like to do,"
Busch says, "is read a small piece of
Closing Arguments and then read a
new story."
When Busch was younger, he saw
himself as a "young Hemingway,"
unrecognized and unappreciated. As
he continued to write, Busch says he
realized that . he wasn't Ernest
Hemingway. "I admired aspects of
his work, that he had invented a lan-
guage to deal with violence,' Busch
explains. "What was I in the busi-
ness. for? Was it to be recognized? It
was finally to do the work itself."
FREDERICK BUSCH reads tonight
at 8 p.m. in Rackham Amphitheatre.
Admission is free.

Ingrid Chavez
Ingrid Chavez
Paisley Park/Warner Bros.
In the soft, ethereal glow of the
candlelit room, haphazardly strewn
with scarves and crushed flowers,
Ingrid Chavez smiles at me. She
reaches out a slender hand, moving
as though she's underwater, and
presses 'play' on the tape deck:.
"As we swim in the spirit of
Love/ The heavens smile/ On this
pool of kissy fish/ Clouds bursting
with rain/ In a perfect sky." .
The music itself is sweet and
inviting, like a piece of chocolate
cake. Chavez's fragile, whispery
voice gently floats on top of lush

keyboards, dense acoustic guitars
and a distant, Soul II Soul-ish beat.
It kind of reminds me of a post-
modern Stevie Nicks reciting some-
thing from the Enigma disc. I don't
want to tell her this, because I'm
afraid she'll get upset, so we talk.
"What's this song called?" I ask.
"This one is 'Hippy Blood,' from
my new album," she croons back at
me. "Do you like it?"
For once in my life, I was
speechless. The song was OK, in a
sort of background-music-while-
you make-out kind of way. But with
lines like "pools of kissy fish"?
Please! It reads like the bad poetry
that chronically depressed, pseudo-
artsy kid with the bad haircut used
to write during study hall, back in
junior high.

So I tell her I like it. Chavez
senses my lie. "Well, listen to this
one," she says. She fast-forwards to
"Candledance," a slow, sexy num-
ber heavy on rich pianos and an am-
bient rhythm that'rolls like a cro-
quet ball on wet grass. I cannot lie;
I actually like this song. Chavez
smiles, while the heavy, pungent in-
cense makes me light-headed.
"Flicker flicker/ Candledance/
The storm's your once in a lifetime
chance," she sings into my ear. The
sound of two people making love
seeps from the speakers.
"A little trick I learned from
my good friend, Prince," laughs
Chavez. 'He discovered me."
As I gaze into .her beautiful,
coffee-colored eyes, I can see why.
See RECORDS, Page 7

The Neon Bible
John Kennedy Toole
Grove Press/paperback and hardcover
Preacher Mike is lecturing passersby on the Diag.
Evangelists scream at us from our TV screens. A thou-
sand philosophies of every kind compete for our atten-
tion, each one bearing an identical message: "Only I am
"This is the theme of The Neon Bible, a novel told
from the perspective of a boy; David, who lives in a
small, southern town in the 1940s. He is a-member of a
family .that is continually on the edge of utter despera-
tion, financially and otherwise. The story involves
various authority figures, many religious, who compete
for control of David's life, from youth through
adolescence, as he suffers in an endless stream of
disasters that he is powerless to prevent.
It is worth mentioning the author of the book, John

Toole, who posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize in
1982 for .his only other published work, A
Confederacy of Dunces. Toole was just 16 when he
wrote The Neon Bible, but the book is written with a
skill that is clearly the product of a gifted mind. Toole
committed suicide at the age of 31, so we must rely on
these two works as indicators of his obvious literary
Description .is the strength of this novel. Unlike
Dunces, which was more comic in style, here Toole
deftly creates -an atmosphere of thickening (and often
oppressive) darkness, a tone that permeates every page.
It is difficult not to be sympathetic toward David as
each tragedy in his life is described in excruciating de-
tail. The realism of David's narrative voice serves to
enhance an already powerful story. One particularly ef-
fective passage describes his feelings after a violent ar-
See BOOKS, Page 7



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